Driving in mud can be the most fun part of four wheel driving and at times the most frustrating.
Obviously the type of mud you will encounter will all depend on the type of soil underneath it. Mud can vary from silty fine stuff that acts like quick sand to a clay base that seems to suck your tyres into it and doesn’t want to let go.
Before driving through that big muddy track it pays to pull up, jump out and have a good look at the area you want to drive through. Grab a long stick from near the track and probe around a bit in the mud, does the base feel firm, are there old tree roots or rocks etc. that may impede your progress. Some can be deceivingly deep or have ruts or holes gouged into them from other 4×4 vehicles that have been hitting the track with too much power and speed just churning up the track.
Driving in mud is a fine tuned art at times requiring you toenter with just the right amount of speed and momentum to ensure you’re not ripping it up and losing control but still have enough to get through any tricky spots without stopping. Most of the time second gear low range will give you just about the right speed to get you through any mud with the ability to use a bit more right foot if things start getting tricky part way through.
Tyres can make a huge difference when it comes to mud. In an ideal world it would be good to have a separate set of proper mud terrain tyres that you throw on when you’re planning to have a play in some mud. But good quality mud tyres and decent rims are too expensive for the average joe to spend when they may only get used occasionally. While road tread tyres would be next to useless in mud, a half decent set of all terrains which most four wheel drives have on them will do the job 90% of the time.
Making sure you have the equipment needed to get yourself out when you inevitably get stuck is essential to driving in the wet stuff. As with most four wheel driving it is a good idea to go out with others so you can help each other out if you get stuck (there is bound to be a 4×4 club in your area) a good snatch strap is an invaluable item that if used properly will get you on the move again before you know it. If you are likely to be going out on your own then a set of treds or maxtraxs would be an essential purchase so you can hopefully get out without relying on another vehicle.
The best way to learn driving in mud is get out there and give it a try. Start off on smaller easy tracks and work your way up to bigger deeper stuff. Get to know your vehicle, see how it goes and find what works and what doesn’t (hopefully without breaking anything). Get out there, mud is fun and takes you places you normally couldn’t go. Don’t forget to give your vehicle and probably yourself a good clean afterwards.
Article and images by Michael Salt